Is the New World Translation Accurate?
The first part of the New World Translation was released in 1950. Since then, some people have commented on or questioned the accuracy of the New World Translation a because in places it differs from other translations of the Bible. The reasons for these differences usually fall into one of the following categories.
Reliability. The New World Translation is based on up-to-date scholarly research and the most reliable ancient manuscripts. In contrast, the King James Version of 1611 was based on manuscripts that were often less accurate and not as old as those used in producing the New World Translation.
Faithfulness. The New World Translation strives to convey faithfully the original message that was inspired by God. (2 Timothy 3:16) Many translations of the Bible sacrifice faithfulness to God’s message in favor of following human traditions, for instance by replacing God’s personal name, Jehovah, with titles such as Lord or God.
Literalness. Unlike paraphrased translations, the New World Translation renders words literally as long as doing so does not result in awkward wording or hide the thought of the original writings. Translations that paraphrase the Bible’s original text may insert human opinions or omit important details.
Differences between the New World Translation and other translations
Missing books. In their Bibles, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches include books known by some as the Apocrypha. However, those books were not accepted into the Jewish canon, and it is noteworthy that the Bible says that the Jews were the ones who were “entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God.” (Romans 3:1, 2) Thus, the New World Translation and many other modern Bible translations rightly exclude the books of the Apocrypha.
Missing verses. Some translations add verses and phrases that are not in the oldest available Bible manuscripts, but the New World Translation excludes such added material. Many modern translations either omit those later additions or acknowledge that those additions lack support from the most authoritative sources. b
Different wording. Occasionally, word-for-word translations are unclear or misleading. For example, Jesus’ statement at Matthew 5:3 is often translated: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” (English Standard Version; King James Version; New International Version) Many find the literal rendering “poor in spirit” to be obscure, while some think that Jesus was highlighting the value of humility or poverty. However, Jesus’ point was that true happiness comes from recognizing the need for God’s guidance. The New World Translation accurately conveys his meaning with the words “those conscious of their spiritual need.”—Matthew 5:3. c
Positive comments about the New World Translation from non-Witness scholars
In a letter dated December 8, 1950, noted Bible translator and scholar Edgar J. Goodspeed wrote regarding the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures: “I am interested in the mission work of your people, and its world wide scope, and much pleased with the free, frank and vigorous translation. It exhibits a vast array of sound serious learning, as I can testify.”
Professor Allen Wikgren of the University of Chicago cited the New World Translation as an example of a modern speech version that rather than being derived from other translations, often has “independent readings of merit.”—The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume I, page 99.
Commenting on the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, British Bible critic Alexander Thomson wrote: “The translation is evidently the work of skilled and clever scholars, who have sought to bring out as much of the true sense of the Greek text as the English language is capable of expressing.”—The Differentiator, April 1952, page 52.
Despite noting what he felt were a few unusual renderings, author Charles Francis Potter said: “The anonymous translators have certainly rendered the best manuscript texts, both Greek and Hebrew, with scholarly ability and acumen.”—The Faiths Men Live By, page 300.
Although he felt that the New World Translation had both peculiarities and excellences, Robert M. McCoy concluded his review of it by stating: “The translation of the New Testament is evidence of the presence in the movement [Jehovah’s Witnesses] of scholars qualified to deal intelligently with the many problems of Biblical translation.”—Andover Newton Quarterly, January 1963, page 31.
Professor S. MacLean Gilmour, while not agreeing with some renderings in the New World Translation, still acknowledged that its translators “possessed an unusual competence in Greek.”—Andover Newton Quarterly, September 1966, page 26.
In his review of the New World Translation that forms part of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, Associate Professor Thomas N. Winter wrote: “The translation by the anonymous committee is thoroughly up-to-date and consistently accurate.”—The Classical Journal, April-May 1974, page 376.
Professor Benjamin Kedar-Kopfstein, a Hebrew scholar in Israel, said in 1989: “In my linguistic research in connection with the Hebrew Bible and translations, I often refer to the English edition of what is known as the New World Translation. In so doing, I find my feeling repeatedly confirmed that this work reflects an honest endeavor to achieve an understanding of the text that is as accurate as possible.”
Based on his analysis of nine major English translations, Jason David BeDuhn, associate professor of religious studies, wrote: “The NW [New World Translation] emerges as the most accurate of the translations compared.” Although the general public and many Bible scholars assume that the differences in the New World Translation are the result of religious bias on the part of its translators, BeDuhn stated: “Most of the differences are due to the greater accuracy of the NW as a literal, conservative translation of the original expressions of the New Testament writers.”—Truth in Translation, pages 163, 165.
a Comments apply to editions of the English New World Translation prior to the 2013 revision.
b For example, see the New International Version and the Catholic New Jerusalem Bible. The added verses are Matthew 17:21; 18:11; 23:14; Mark 7:16; 9:44, 46; 11:26; 15:28; Luke 17:36; 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29; and Romans 16:24. The King James Version and the Douay-Rheims Version include a Trinitarian passage at 1 John 5:7, 8, which was added hundreds of years after the Bible was written.
c Similarly, J. B. Phillips’ translation renders Jesus’ words as “those who know their need for God,” and The Translator’s New Testament uses the phrase “those who know their spiritual need.”